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What is Nostalgia Worth? Vintage Goods a $1.1 Billion Market on eBay

This is a guest article by Terapeak. I've been recommending Terapeak for years.  It's a great tool to help eBay and Amazon sellers grow their business.

With eBay preparing to split from PayPal later this year, retrospectives on eBay's rise and history have become increasingly commonplace.

One thing that characterized eBay early on, and that in many ways has continued to be a hallmark of the eBay marketplace, is the unique range of  no-longer-available goods that are sold on eBay.

Antiques and collectibles are often the first thing that comes to mind in this category, but as an homage eBay's history we thought we'd look at two similar kinds of goods-vintage and retro consumer goods, for which eBay is an equally unique source.

Some writers have wondered aloud in recent years about whether eBay might not have lost touch with its roots-and we set out to provide at least one answer to that question.

vintage Nike Jordans

This collection of vintage Nike Jordans went for $50,000—and
probably couldn't have been found anywhere else. (Image: eBay)

The Size of the Vintage and Retro Market

So just how much vintage and retro shopping still occurs on eBay? We wanted a fairly complete picture, so we ran the numbers for the keywords "vintage" and "retro"- together a massive catch-all-going back a full year.

What we found is a very stable trendline-neither increasing nor decreasing-adding up to some significant numbers. In dollars terms, sales of vintage and retro keyworded goods total just over $1.1 billion dollars yearly right now. Vintage goods are the biggest group here, accounting for more than three quarters of sales. Retro goods come next, followed by a smaller group of products listed as both vintage and retro.

Annual vintage and retro sales total about $1.1 billion.

Annual vintage and retro sales total about $1.1 billion.

Similar percentages characterize unit sales, though with the differences slightly less pronounced.

About 32.5 million items shipped over the last year.

About 32.5 million items shipped over the last year.

Over the past year, nearly 32.5 million vintage or retro items have been sold on Just over 26.3 million of these are "vintage" items, 4.5 million of them "retro," and 1.6 million of them keyworded using both terms.

Despite worries in some quarters that eBay has been overtaken by large overstock and import sellers of recently manufactured, trendy goods, vintage and retro items remain a big business on eBay-particularly in light of the fact that these numbers underestimate such sales. Not all sellers, after all, use keywords like "vintage" and "retro," even when selling desirable mid-century memorabilia and consumer products.

One takeaway for sellers is that if you have an item that qualifies for these terms, using them might not be a bad idea; shoppers are certainly interested in goods that aren't of recent vintage or that reflect nostalgia for products from other periods.

1972 Atari Pong arcade game

This circa 1972 Atari Pong arcade game sold for $2,600. (Image: eBay)

Sampling the Vintage and Retro Market

A catch-all search for goods marked "vintage" and "retro" on eBay brings in so many listings, of so many different kinds of goods, that it's hard to get a handle on just how diverse the market is.

Fashion and home decor are big, of course, but so are vintage and retro computers and electronics, as are such esoteric things as vintage and retro fishing rods, skateboards, kitchen appliances, and gardening tools-not to mention other obvious categories such as jewelry and watches.

To illustrate the diversity and range of values, we selected five recent high-value sales and five recent "more affordable" sales as examples. First, the high value sales.

  • Vintage Rolex Daytona watch ( /ROLEXVINTAGE- DAYTONA- 6263- CHRONOGRAPH- FUERZA-AEREADEL- PERU-1974-/ 151489553327), circa 1974 - $55,000.00.

  • Lot of 17 vintage Nike Series I Air Jordan pairs of shoes ( /itm / Original- Jordan- I- Og-Collection- Vintage-1985-Sample-/381100239450), circa 1985 - $50,000.00.

  • Vintage Angenieux F100 1:2 F2 camera lens ( /PAngenieux- F100-1-2-F2-Type- S3- 100mm-Vintage- Camera-Lens-Paris-France- Rare-/151602161415), circa early 20th century - $41,100.00.

  • Vintage Fender Stratocaster guitar ( /1955- FENDER- STRATOCASTER- VINTAGE- ELECTRIC- PRE-CBS-SUNBURSTSTRAT- TELE- SH-GUITAR-/301562345664), circa 1955 - $26,600.00.

  • Vintage Apple iPod Classic, 2nd generation ( / COLLECTORS- RARE-VINTAGE- SEALED-New- Apple-iPod-classic-2nd- Gen-10- GB- MAC-/151610709433), circa 2002 - $25,999.99.

Angenieux 100mm lens

An early-century Angenieux 100mm lens will set you back $41,100. (Image: eBay)

Goods like those above aren't for just anyone-at these prices, it's serious collectors only. But if you have a favorite hobby or brand, there are vintage and retro goods oneBay that are likely not available to most shoppers anywhere else-and that are a bit closer to affordability for enthusiasts.

  • Lot of three vintage PEZ dispensers ( /vintage- fuit-PEZ- dispenser- / 151536070572), circa mid 20th century - $4,550.00.

  • Vintage Beatles lunchbox and thermos set ( itm /ORIGINAL- VINTAGE- 1965- BEATLESLUNCHBOX- THERMOS-WITH- ORIGINAL- STOCK-STICKER-/161333175664), circa 1965 - $3,350.00.

  • Vintage Atari Pong arcade game ( /Vintage- Arcade-Atari-Pong- Video- Game- /151562794962), circa 1972 - $2,600.00.

  • Vintage Ferrari neon dealership sign ( /VINTAGE- 1970- RARE- DINO- FERRARI- NEON- DEALERSHIP-GAS-OIL-S IGN-/ 371279329350), circa 1970 - $1,375.00.

  • Vintage New York Yankees Mickey Mantle bobblehead doll ( / Vintage- New-York- Yankee- mini- Mickey-Mantlenodder-bobble- Bobblehead- Japan-org-/171675140039), circa 1960 - $1,100.00.

Of course, prices go much lower as well-as any regular shopper of eBay's vintage everyday fashion or home decor offerings can attest.

Beatles lunchbox

If you grew up with The Beatles but never got the lunchbox,
you can pick one up on eBay for $3,350. (Image: eBay)

Nostalgia Sells

What's clear from all of this is that eBay's roots in offering shoppers products that can't be had anywhere else remain as strong as they ever have been, even as eBay has grown into an ecommerce marketplace that competes with retailers of new goods.

And while there's a great deal of opportunity on eBay for sellers of high-volume new and overstock goods, there's also a thriving market on eBay for vintage and retro goods.

So rejoice, sellers of classic Osterizer blenders, Apple Newton MessagePad devices, olds-school Volvo car parts, mid-century croquet sets, rotary-flip clock radios, and brown leather 4-wheel roller skates-with good market research and sound inventory sourcing strategies, you're still well-positioned to reach a massive audience of shoppers that wants something more than what's available through retail channels today.

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